Record U.S. wind-farm development activity rises in second quarter

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A 160.5 MW wind power generation facility at Indian Mesa / Clear Sky. (Courtesy: AWEA)

U.S. wind-farm development activity rose to a new high point in the second quarter of 2019, according to new data from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Strong consumer demand from Fortune 500 businesses and utilities as well as calls from multiple states for offshore projects added to wind power’s growing development pipeline. At the same time, wind-turbine manufacturers saw an increasing number of factory orders for more powerful wind turbines capable of powering almost twice the number of homes as an average wind turbine installed in the past few years.

These findings and the latest industry data are highlighted in AWEA’s newly released U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2019 Market Report. AWEA market reports provide an authoritative status update for the U.S. wind energy industry, which continues to supply a growing share of the American electricity generation while creating well-paying careers and economic opportunity in communities across the country.

“American wind power’s record growth continues to accelerate with over 200 wind farm projects underway in 33 states,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Our industry’s success strengthens the U.S. economy because access to affordable, clean American wind power is a competitive advantage in the eyes of business leaders. And when those businesses invest in U.S. wind energy, it directly benefits the people living and working in our country’s farm, factory, and port communities.”

The record 41,801 MW of U.S. wind capacity under construction or in advanced stages of development represents a 10 percent increase over the level of activity this time last year. The wind-project pipeline grew 7 percent in the second quarter with 7,290 MW in new construction and advanced development activity announced.

Wind power is expanding rapidly in many regions of the U.S. More than 200 wind projects are underway across 33 states, and 15 of those states have more than 1,000 MW of wind capacity that will come online in the near term. Texas hosts the most activity (9,015 MW), followed by Wyoming (4,831 MW), New Mexico (2,774 MW), Iowa (2,623 MW), and South Dakota (2,183 MW). Notably, half of U.S. states have enough projects underway to grow their installed wind capacity by 25 percent or more.

Offshore wind also saw significant activity in the second quarter with bold new offshore wind targets legislated in Maryland (1,200 MW), Connecticut (2,000 MW), and New York (9,000 MW). New Jersey granted its first offshore renewable energy certificate (OREC) award to Ørsted’s 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project — the largest offshore project planned in the U.S. so far. And the activity hasn’t slowed; early in the third quarter, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind as winners of the state’s first call for offshore wind project proposals.

The U.S. grid now includes an additional 736 MW of wind power as developers commissioned four new wind farms in the second quarter. This brings total U.S. wind capacity to 97,960 MW, with more than 57,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states and two U.S. territories. American wind farms now produce enough electricity to power more than 30 million average homes and reliably supply more than 20 percent of the electricity in six states.

Businesses and utilities continue to purchase more wind energy to power their operations. Wind power customers announced new long-term contracts, called power purchase agreements (PPAs), totaling 1,962 MW in the second quarter. Non-utility corporate customers signed up for 52 percent of second quarter PPA capacity. Hormel Foods, Smithfield Foods, Crown Holdings, and Ernst & Young were first-time customers of wind energy in the second quarter, along with repeat customers such as General Mills, Walmart, and Target. Strong demand from utilities accounted for the remaining 48 percent (949 MW) of second quarter PPAs. So far this year, 35 customers have announced wind-power purchases totaling 4,799 MW.

As wind power’s customer base evolves, so too does the technology. Wind turbine manufacturers have introduced new models at a rapid pace over the past few years in pursuit of lowering costs and achieving even stronger performance. As a result, the number of projects selecting wind turbines with a capacity of 3.5 MW or more is growing significantly. In the second quarter alone, wind-turbine manufacturers publicly reported nine orders totaling 2,049 MW for turbines ranging in capacity from 4.2 to 4.5 MW.

“We’re seeing a growing number of wind farms select turbines capable of powering nearly twice as many homes as the average U.S. wind turbine,” Kiernan said. “Wind-technology innovation is keeping pace with demand, but we can’t afford to neglect the power-grid infrastructure that delivers electricity from where it’s made to consumers. We continue to urge the Administration, Congress, FERC, and grid operators to ensure well-designed transmission lines can be planned, permitted, and built in a timely fashion.”

Earlier this year, AWEA’s 2018 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report highlighted the significant economic benefits that grow along with wind-power capacity. Wind farms pay more than $1 billion a year through state and local taxes plus lease payments to landowners, helping preserve the rural way of life in farming and ranching communities across the country. The wind industry also supports a record number of U.S. jobs, more than 114,000, with substantial room to grow as the industry continues to scale up in the heartland and offshore. Roughly a quarter of those careers are found at more than 500 U.S. factories manufacturing or assembling wind-turbine components.

You can learn more about wind power, and potentially visit a wind farm or factory, during the third annual American Wind Week, August 11-17. American Wind Week is a national celebration of U.S. leadership in wind power and the many ways wind powers opportunity for jobseekers, communities, and a cleaner future. A map of events and proclamations is available at AmericanWindWeek.org.

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